The Counselor Screen 22 articles

The Counselor


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  • It’s as if Scott, McCarthy and their all-star cast, which also includes Brad Pitt and Javier Bardem, could not stop themselves from making the worst movie in the history of the universe (or at any rate, one of the worst I’ve ever seen). Yet at the same time, they felt honor-bound to poison the well subtly by turning the film into a self-referential commentary on its own terribleness.

  • The Counselor features alongside its depressingly obvious visual metaphors and gratingly faux-astere brutality a two-for-one special of alternately neurasthenic and embarrassingly over-cranked acting: understandably tuckered out after his 12 Years a Slave pratfalls, Michael Fassbender gives perhaps the first truly lazy performance of his career, while Diaz... gives ’er with the intensity of a true believer.

  • The usually dominant and stolid director Ridley Scott allows McCarthy’s penchant for insanely verbose dialogue to swamp the movie. Leonard’s chatter amongst crooks is a model of economy and wit; McCarthy’s is piled high with past participles, run-on phrases, clauses tumbling into more clauses, sentences so obtuse they could only exist on the page and never be spoken.

  • The script spreads the action worldwide and paper-thin, and the supporting luminaries... are stuck playing clichés who spout clichés. The dialogue alternates between throwaway snark and pseudo-philosophical criminal cant; each scene serves as little more than an index card for the mechanistic plot, which Scott films in a glossy and fluid style befitting an industrial promotion for the movie’s high-tech weaponry.

  • What works for [screenwriter Cormac McCarthy] in a novel cannot be said to work for him here. The dialogue in "The Counselor" might kindly be termed "heightened," or it might unkindly be termed the most self-consciously significant gabbing since the days of Paddy Chayefsky.

  • ...These instances of [negative] hyperbole have probably emboldened The Counselor’s inevitable and eventual status as a misunderstood masterpiece within enthusiastic circles that unquestioningly accept Scott’s, and particularly, McCarthy’s artistic sainthood. To react so strongly, even negatively, to The Counselor is to weirdly overrate it, as it’s just a bad movie—a dull bit of hokum puffed up with its creators’ delusions of grandeur.

  • The Counsellor is indeed quite maddening. It’s obvious that the film is doing something unusual and potentially interesting – but its actual pleasures are few and far between... The Counsellor is a fascinating film, but it’s diminished by the brevity of our lives: it’s got Death on the brain, and its morbid obsession ends up sucking all the energy out of it. It’s singular and fatalistic, and by all means watch it. Just don’t expect to enjoy it.

  • Even though The Counselor has an all-star cast, a large budget, the backing of a major studio, and direction by Ridley Scott, the result often underwhelms... That Reiner and Malkina sometimes seem more like character sketches than actual people is disappointing. Yet even if The Counselor fails to live up to its hype, with its snappy dialogue and satisfying action sequences, it is a good bit of naughty fun.

  • Though Fassbender is saddled with a bland and passive antihero, and his paramount love for his (Catholic and guileless) woman never achieves flesh-and-blood depth, McCarthy's schematic script is largely redeemed by Scott rendering the pulpiest elements with some trashy gusto.

  • Can a movie be both a catastrophe and strangely compelling — maybe even, gasp, good — at the same time? It seems The Counselor is determined to find out. On the surface, this new Ridley Scott thriller... is a narrative wipeout: a supposedly twisty-turny crime drama set along the border that isn’t all that twisty or turny but is deeply convoluted, and at times howlingly insane. But it knows it makes no sense. In fact, it rubs our faces in it.

  • Once Fassbender’s deal goes bad, as one knows it will, everything locks wonderfully into place. What seemed ponderous before now comes off as the gradual tightening of a noose around the neck, and as the violence inches into Grand Guignol territory and the metaphor-heavy soliloquies become more eloquent... you’re reminded that Sir Ridley has long been fluent in the language of fatalistic masculinity.

  • Working off a deliciously purple debut script from Cormac McCarthy, Ridley Scott delivers something exceedingly rare, an adult thriller that’s about words instead of actions, characters instead of set pieces... Like a Coen brothers movie without all the overt stylistic tics, The Counselorpresents a vibrant stable of oddball characters who never tire of hearing themselves talk, and their facility in doing so adds a necessary layer of mordant humor to the proceedings.

  • Recipe for a movie that'll piss people off: Jacobean + Euclidean + Hegelian. Can't really fault anyone for hating this...but its pitiless anti-narrative played for me like a pure, uncut version of No Country, one without the hand-wringing old men. Was only bothered by the philosophizing at first, when I (naturally) assumed it would be occasional and intrusive; once it completely took over the movie, with the entire supporting cast turning unapologetically logorrheic, rolling with it wasn't hard.

  • The Counselor has the heartless verve of filmmakers half their ages. It's filthy, nasty, sexy, absurd, appalling, and exhilarating, and it succeeds as a musky union of novelist Cormac McCarthy’s bleakness and Ridley Scott's sense of chic.

  • ...This is pretty compelling: two hours of didactic dialogues, more or less expertly delivered (Diaz does a fine job by her standards, which is to say she doesn't fuck it up), and it's a real pleasure to watch Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt et al. feel their way through some unusual rhythms.

  • Mr. Scott manages all these swiftly spinning parts with impeccable control and a lucid visual style. The story may be initially elusive, but there’s a clarity, solidity and stillness (the camera moves but doesn’t tremble) to his images that augment the narrative’s gravity and inexorable momentum. The beauty of the landscapes is about all that feels coherent in an often unrecognizable, unsettling world.

  • [McCarthy's] wordplay is rich, rhythmic, clearly the product of someone in love with language and everything it can both conceal and reveal, but listen closely and you will also hear the espousing of a philosophy of the world, where love is a mirage and only in death may we find something like redemption. “The Counselor” is one of the best films Ridley Scott has made in a career that is not often enough credited for just how remarkable it has been.

  • ...We know the basic players but not the size or significance of the game. We aren't given the rules, but we're told when someone's losing. And information — about the cartel, about the deal, about how and why every player is involved — is kept to such a minimum that what remains seems somehow archetypal.

  • Between them, Scott and McCarthy have created a film that in less accomplished hands could have slumped into melodrama, but that retains the grim humour, and the granitic implacability, of a classic morality tale.

  • What is original about the film is the way it works through the film noir story template in a fashion more akin to Greek tragedy and horror films, setting up ominous suggestions of things that will come to pass with hints of oracular and morally significant purpose, and then following through on them unrelentingly.

  • In the director’s commentary for the excellent Blu-ray of The Counselor, the most underrated and indeed ridiculously maligned film of 2013, Ridley Scott muses that the proliferation of devices and the amount of time people spend looking at media hasn’t made them more sophisticated. If anything, audiences have less tolerance than ever for movies that don’t spoon-feed them the story.

  • Scott has made one good film in 30 years. This is that one good film. The rhythms and cadences of the dialogue are compelling (Pitt especially nails the odd fluidity of McCarthy’s prose, and Bardem chews those words with relish), even if Diaz is only barely competent. Scott doesn’t so much bring a vision to the film as much as he allows McCarthy’s vision to flourish, and the actors to flesh that vision out. (I’m not a fan of either Scott brother, tbh.)

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